Hepatitis B is a liver disease. It can be acute or chronic. Acute hepatitis B usually goes away on its own and may not need treatment.
Chronic hepatitis B is an infection that lasts more than six months. Chronic infection can lead to other health problems. Hepatitis B is treated with antiviral medications.
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Hepatitis B is caused by a virus. The virus causes swelling and irritation in the liver and makes it difficult for the liver to function normally.
The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is spread by semen, vaginal secretions, saliva, blood, or body fluids from an infected person. The virus can pass from these fluids to your body through an open cut in your skin.
A woman with hepatitis can also pass HBV to her baby during childbirth.
Factors that may increase your chance of getting hepatitis B include:
It is possible that someone infected with HBV may never have symptoms of hepatitis B.
If symptoms do develop, they appear around 60-150 days after exposure. Hepatitis B may cause:
Chronic hepatitis can lead to serious health problems including:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Hepatitis B is diagnosed with blood tests. Blood tests are also used to monitor changes in the liver.
For chronic cases, a liver biopsy may be needed.
Acute infection may not need any treatment since it usually goes away on its own.
Chronic hepatitis B may be treated with a combination of different antiviral medications. All medications do not work the same in all people. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.
Your doctor may also ask that you:
There is a vaccine for hepatitis B that is available for adults. This vaccine is usually given as a series of three injections. In addition, the vaccine is routinely given to newborns. Children and teens who were not vaccinated as babies can still receive the shots.
Other prevention strategies include:
Last reviewed February 2014 by David L Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.